NASA is developing its first lunar rover: it will be called VIPER, and its main task will be to search for water on the Moon. The rover will descend to the bottom of the Moon's craters, where sunlight has never reached, so it will need good searchlights as no work can be done in craters without a light source.
NASA announced the VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) mission back in 2019. Formally, this is a continuation of the Resource Prospector mission, which was canceled in 2018 when NASA switched to commercial programs; Many of the missions on the approved list of delivering rovers to the moon and developing scientific instruments were outsourced to commercial companies, which should reduce the burden on the federal budget.
NASA's rover is about the size of a golf cart and weighs 450 kilograms. It is expected that its battery charge will be enough to explore the floor of the Moon's craters for 50 hours. Since the signal from Earth to the Moon takes only a few seconds, the team on Earth will be able to control it in real time like a drone. And when the place where the lunar rover will land will leave the direct line of sight of the Earth, the lunar rover will go into "sleep" mode.
The rover has a one-meter-long drill with which it will be able to determine the thickness of water ice, if, of course, there is such on the Moon. It should be noted that signs of water on the Moon were discovered by the Indian Chandrayaan 1 satellite back in 2009, and therefore scientists hope that there will be large reserves of water in the form of ice in the craters of the Earth's satellite. If they are indeed found, it will be a big event, because water is a source of oxygen necessary for breathing, and hydrogen is a necessary source for rocket fuel. The fate of bases on the Moon and the choice of future space programs will depend on the presence and quantity of water on the Moon.
In 2020, it was decided to use the Griffin landing module developed by the Astrobotic company, with which a contract of 200 million dollars was signed, to bring NASA's lunar rover to the Moon. The module, according to the plan, was supposed to bring the lunar rover to the area of Nobile Crater, which is located at the south pole of the Moon and whose width is 73 km.
However, Astrobotic was unable to complete the work on time, and the mission had to be moved from November this year to November 2024. The total cost of the mission reaches 500 million dollars, including the cost of launching the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
The launch of the rover is scheduled for November 10, 2024. The flight to the Moon will take about five months or a little longer, depending on what changes are made to the lunar approach trajectory.